Last month's budget announced that 'micro-entrepreneurs' will get a tax-free allowance of up to £1000 for online selling. So now has never been a better time to dig out your unwanted stuff to fund that car project. Here are some of our best tips for selling on eBay.
Start by setting up a spreadsheet to keep an accurate account of what you're making because those eBay and Paypal fees can catch you out big style. I've only recently realised that I was losing an extra 20p on every sale from PayPal. Doesn't sound like much right? Backtracking and adding that on to every transaction took a depressingly large chunk out of my profits.
Generally speaking (although annoyingly it changes for different categories) eBay will take 10% of the overall transaction. That means if you sell an item for a 99p starting bid and charge £3.00 postage you'll pay 39p in eBay fees, not 10p, as you may have thought. PayPal also takes their cut of about 3% (more if it's an international sale) plus that 20p per transaction I mentioned earlier. That means you'd come away, in this example, with 27p profit. Not great.
There's also an insertion fee of 35p on eBay, although regular sellers often get "free insertion" offers to encourage them to list more (I hardly ever end up having to pay these fees), that being said if you had paid the insertion fee in my above example you'd come away with a loss of 8p so bear that in mind.
Know the Value of What You're Selling
Use the advanced search section on eBay to find the selling price of similar items that have actually sold, not just what ones are listed at, and price accordingly. Don't ignore other active items though, undercutting people by even a penny could make you a sale. Let go of sentiment and be realistic about an item's value. If it looks like your item is going to sell for less than £5 profit (using your spreadsheet to calculate this) it's not worth your time, in my opinion, to list and post the item, so set anything like that aside to sell at a car boot instead.
Play The Game
Respond to potential buyer's questions (unless they're crazy or offensive- there's a report button for that). Be flexible and reasonable. I love the "make an offer option" but it's so underused by sellers. ALWAYS counter-offer, even when someone's made you an insultingly low offer, you'd be surprised how many people start low but are expecting to meet you in the middle. Use the "terms" area in the "Submit a Counter-Offer" option to negotiate with a potential buyer, as I've found people always respond better to a personalised message. If I'm accepting an offer there has to be a good incentive, for example, if I'm selling an item as "Collection Only" I'll agree to take less for a swift collection (24 hours or less) and cash in hand, which will save you money on PayPal fees.
Know which postage company will give you the best price. Royal Mail is easiest for small stuff, although it doesn't have the benefit of online tracking. At the moment smallish items which are 1-2kg are cheapest to send by Royal Mail Second Class and myHermes comes out cheapest for items under 1kg and pretty much everything else.
Not something you want to think about, but if something does go wrong try not to have a meltdown. Take precautions to prevent disputes from happening, like double-checking items with a fine tooth comb before posting them out and paying the extra for signed, recorded delivery on anything over £20. Also beware of buyers with very low or negative feedback as well as scams that involve posting items to a different address than the one listed by the buyer, as this would void your eBay seller protection. Some buyers will take advantage of new eBay users, so it's best to build up a feedback score of at least 100 (by buying things) before you start selling.
I think disputes have happened in less than 1% of my transactions, but I treat every sale like a bonus that isn't guaranteed until 30 days after an item's been received (that's the time limit a buyer has to open a dispute). Lots of people are shocked by how few rights sellers have when cases are opened against them and if you do a quick search online there's plenty of forums advocating to boycott eBay for this very reason. But as a buyer as well as a seller on eBay I understand why things are as they are and accept the risks. If you are the sort of person who will lose sleep over losing a bit of money then it's probably best you stick to carbooting.
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